Tag Archives: jordan

The new phase of terrorism

Many observers believe that recent developments in security measures have increased the effectiveness with which we can face terrorism, as evidenced by the falling number of attacks by IS or other groups. While we may have developed strategies and tact…

The risk of political isolation

The ever dynamic geopolitics of the Middle East have been particularly fluid recently. Since the recent visit to Riyadh by President Trump, which included a summit and announcement of an anti-terrorism coalition, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as the main political protagonist in the region.

If Saudi Arabia is serious about taking the initiative for real progressive reform within the Islamic world, then there is hope for change. However, it will not be easy, especially given the internal politics that the ruling class in Saudi is facing.

Separating the religious state and the nation state is the only real way to end the continuous official exploitation of religion. A clear division between the religious mandate as the custodian of the two holy mosques and the King of Saudi Arabia’s mandate as leader of the state is required. Religion must be depoliticized in order for an independent nation state in Saudi Arabia.

This would also mean that the Sunni Islam community would have a single interlocutor, who is also the custodian of the two holy mosques. This clear division could also create a clearer religious identity and legitimacy for the custodians.

In the meantime, we are also seeing normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab countries. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu has referred to this on two different occasions recently. Firstly he said that Israel is more interested in peace with Arab countries. Secondly, when he welcomed President Trump to Israel, he commented that he looks forward to the day when a plane could do the same route that President Trump did but directly go from Jerusalem to Riyadh, rather than having to route through a third country.

The increasing normalization of Israeli-Arab relations and the potential for an exclusive group representing the Sunni Muslim community, combined would have wider implications across the region and the world. In particular it could politically isolate some countries and reduce their influence.

Jordan is one of the countries that could be affected by these developments. Sovereignty over al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem could stir competition and rivalry among Muslim political system. We saw the potential for this in the recent issues as several groups claimed to have influenced the Israeli decision to reopen the mosque.

Jordan’s strategic geography has always been an advantage, but clever strategic thinking is required in order to leverage that advantage. Given recent developments, Jordan should be seeking a complete change in attitude, strategies and political decisions.

Jordan should seek to reengage with Iraq and Syria, as in any process of re building Syria, Damascus could be the lungs from which Jordan breathes. Jordan also needs to pivot to bolster its internal systems as true legitimacy comes from a strong internal political system. There is a real risk of increased weakening of the internal regime as a result of external factors like the Al Aqsa mosque.

It is important also to review how Israeli-Jordanian relations have deteriorated to this point. The Israeli Ambassador and entire staff have left Jordan, which is effectively an unofficial severing of diplomatic ties. Given the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, it is important to revise how both countries got to this point.

Jordan must focus and be smart enough to avoid the potential political isolation that could be a result of recent developments in the region.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh


What de-radicalisation implies

Any successful de-radicalization strategy requires an understanding of the nature of the problem and anticipation of the risks. It is it not an easy mission to comprehend the level of challenge unless there is, in the mind of the state, a long term vision with clear ideas about the model of the future Jordan.

Even with a solid approach, it is a difficult task. Frankly, we do not have strong de-radicalization narratives; instead we rely on the insufficient strategy of moderate clerics countering radical narratives. Without serious concrete changes in policies, communication and socio-economic development, this is unlikely to make a difference. 

This is not a religious battle, but rather it is a battle of existence, of life and death, where people should be integrated into the present rather than being prisoners of the past.  We need to make people feel positive about life, being productive and appreciating their existence. A comprehensive plan is essential, otherwise we are treading water towards failure.

Many would argue that radicalization is not the primary issue in Jordan, and that we just need to minimize the risk of violence and terrorist attacks. While we don’t have frequent terrorist attacks or major incidents at the moment, this kind of complacency will only lead to one outcome.

Radicalization is not only measured by security outcomes. The latent evolution of the phenomenon should be analyzed with a progressive methodology. If the current situation in many Jordanian villages and cities continues, radicalization will grow and in order for the state and its institutions to reflect societies positions, then policies and programs will adopt these radical tendencies.

These radical thoughts and approach will quickly spread through the security and military establishment as most recruits come from these villages and cities. Many would argue that the model we have is not radical, but the definition of radical will shift with the mentality of the people. The risk is when people reach the point where their attitudes, social behaviors, and thoughts are unconsciously radical, the state moves with them and radicalism is normalized.

The major challenge is, understanding the deep cultural problem of radicalism. We need a serious political will for change so we can hope to have smart minds to predict the problems and future implications through a serious diagnosis of the problem across all sectors of the population. Radicalization is not limited to school curricula or religious narratives. It needs to be at the top of the agenda for national security, from the revision of the security system, the state communication strategy and the socio-economic process. While it is a long process, a concerted and serious effort is required now to ensure that outcomes are achieved in the long-term.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh

Qatar: When tolerance reaching its end

The roots of the tension between Qatar and other GCC countries go back several years to the Arab Spring. During this time, the GCC countries felt that Qatar was playing an active role in feeding the discontent, and the dispute was resolved with the transition of power of the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to his son Tamim in 2013.  As part of this transition, Qatar provided assurances of a shift in the role they played in the region.

The following year, the Gulf countries were not content with the progress and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain all withdrew their ambassadors from Doha and called for similar sanctions that have been applied this week, including the cutting of diplomatic ties and closing all land, sea and air borders with the Gulf states.

The events of this week are the culmination of these tensions that have been playing out over the last four years. Qatar is accused of supporting extremism, which they have not made any effort to counter. In fact, Doha has undertaken aggressive media campaigns against Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia through the wide network of media outlets that they sponsor.

The issues with Qatar span the Arab world, as the impacts are felt across the region. The main players have tried over several years to promote change in Qatar, to no end. While it may appear reactionary, this process has been playing out for many years, and Qatar has not sufficiently responded to ease the tensions or address the concerns of their Arab neighbors.

This process of isolating Qatar is part of a systematic plan that is likely to attract international support. The move comes immediately following President Trump’s visit to Riyadh where he called for an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism and radicalism.

These developments place much greater pressure on Qatar to shift its policies and actions. The promises of the past are no longer going to be enough, and Qatar will need to provide concrete actions in order to avoid further complications for its relationships within the region and internationally, which will fundamentally impact on its economy.

From a Jordanian prospective, Jordan is fully aware of  the current situation and recognize that it is no longer a Gulf conflict, but one that impacts all Arabs. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt are key strategic allies for Jordan, so it was very logic for Jordan to consider a supportive position on this issue.

Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh